Landfall in Port Vila, Vanuatu was made by Moet and her crew on Wednesday 25th September, 7:00am Island time. After 7 days at sea land was a treat - warm showers, cold beers and finally somewhere to stand on that wasn't moving! We were escorted into Vila bay by a pod of about 20 dolphins, dancing around the bow in the early morning sun calling to each other and playing in our wake. It was a perfect welcome to Vanuatu. This is a record of the trip we made on our boat 'Moet' to Vanuatu in 2002, so if you are planning to sail to Vanuatu yourself, or to travel overland, I hope you find it enjoyable and informative!
So by now the crew have been well initiated into the experience of boat life. Frans and I had been working full time for 2 months before they arrived; sanding, scraping, painting, repairing, replacing, installing, upholstering, woodworking, welding, provisioning and, as always, there was an assortment of last minute jobs to be done when the crew arrived in Fiji. So before we started sailing everyone had their own project to work on - Rob was repairing the inflatable dinghy, Geoff and
Anna got busy with some woodwork and Nils did some surfboard repairs while Frans and I dashed around buying last minute supplies and finishing up all our jobs! It was great to see everyone get involved in the preparations and becoming part of a team. Boat yards and marinas are strange places full of interesting characters all with stories to tell and we met up with some great people and plenty of old friends from last year.
Everyone was interested in this trip because it's not often you see six young people on a small sailing boat - especially one with all the toys we have on board: 2 windsurfers, a kiteboard, 2 bodyboards, 4 surfboards, 2 guitars, a drum and of course Anna's cello! The cello has been a prime attraction and it seems that Anna has quite a fanclub over here!
Vanuatu is beautiful. We've been here for a month now and I love it. The people are gentle and friendly and the land is lush and wild. Port Vila, the capital city, has a picturesque little harbour with quaint French patisseries, a reminder of the colonial days, and we spent a few days
here socialising and exploring the island overland. Everyone stops to say hello and wave and ask your name as you walk through the villages and we met some very enthusiastic children who showed us a bird they had caught with a sling shot and were going to eat later that day. They amused us by jumping off a high bridge into a river and we entertained them with Nils's videocamera replay of it. The camera has a little LCD screen so they all gathered round shrieking with laughter at seeing themselves on the mini TV!
We've done a fair bit of sailing since we've been here, some day sails and some overnighters. Sometimes flying fish will land on the deck while we are sailing at night and we'll find them in the morning motionless with their little mouths wide open. They are amazing creatures with beautiful strong wings which can propel their bodies up and out of the water for 30 metres or more. Often we'll be sailing and see whole shoals - or maybe flocks is more appropriate - speeding through the air just above the surface of the waves. The smallest fish to sacrifice itself on our
deck was about half the size of my little finger with beautiful silver wings and big round eyes.
We've been to maybe 9 or 10 anchorages in Vanuatu and the villages are beautiful here, much more traditional than Fiji - bamboo woven walls and palm thached rooves and piglets and chickens and dogs running free all over the place nibbling on pieces of fallen coconut.
We visited one village in Pentecost after an invite from a basket-weaver named Emily who took us to her home and made lap-lap (local speciality with leaves and manioc) while we sat on the mat and talked. The people here are well educated and Emily and her husband spoke not only English, but French, Pidgin, plus 3 or 4 local languages. Pidgin is a language adapted from English and French and what the ni-Vanuatu people use to communicate with those from other islands. It is written just how it is spoken, so 'number one' in Pidgin becomes 'namba wan' which is an expression of something very good. On a can of tuna from the Solomon Islands the label reads 'Taem iu openem tin finis no livim fish insaet' which translates into something like
'By the time you open this tin of fish there is no living fish inside' One would hope not!
The markets here are excellent places, where villagers from all over the island come to sell produce from their gardens - yams, taro, sweet potato, chillies, tomatoes, limes, papaya.
Each afternoon a different group of villages arrive; the women set up their stalls and stay there until the next day, sleeping on mats on the floor at night, and sharing news and gossip with their friends. It must be one of the rare markets of this world where you can tap someone on the shoulder at 3 oÂ´clock in the morning, wake them up, and buy a couple of coconuts!
Whilst in the villages weÂ´ve been getting local handicrafts by trading goods with people. On Ambrym island (an active volcano) there are made some of the most traditional wood carvings, masks and totems in Vanuatu. For some beautiful handcrafted carvings we traded a couple of old T-shirts and a torch. A good swop for everyone - most of the clothes people wear are ripped to near rags and a new-second-hand t-shirt is a welcome gift.
our first penis sheathed man in Santo. He was an old man squatted on the ground outside a Chinese supermarket. He had nothing on his chest or his feet, just a string around his hips with a small piece of cloth hanging over the front and a small piece over the back. He looked up as Anna and I walked into the shop and smiled at us. But, sadly, most of the island men have adopted Western style dress - T-shirts and shorts, while the women wear huge, graceless Mother Hubbard style dresses. These are no longer the bare-breasted cannibal isles of yesterday.
In Pentecost we traded some T-shirts for beautiful woven baskets (which I now take with me everywhere with my cameras, notebook, swiss army knife etc...). They take the island ladies 3 days to make and everyone has them; men, women, and even the children have little ones to carry their lunch to school. The traditional crafts are very much alive here and hollowed out-rigger canoes are still used in many villages.
We want to write a book - 'Remote Restaurants of the Pacific Ocean' as we keep stumbling across little eating places in the most isolated locations. Phillip's restarant in Loltong Bay was very worthy and we had a great time there. Chicken, fish, yam patties, fried banana, coconut pumpkin and plenty of kava.
Phillip, the local owner, played guitar and so we took the instruments down to the restaurant and sang some songs together. The children all wanted to hear Bob Marley and Hotel California and Frans was happy to oblige. The cello was greeted by open mouths and coos of amazement, and the ni-Vanuatu people sang some island songs accompanied by much laughter and sound effects from the younger ones. The singing is similar to the harmonies and high lilts we heard in Fiji, though the melodies are more lively, but the singers are more shy, and while in Fiji everyone would join in, many here stayed outside and watched.
We've been in Santo for a few days now while we do some sail repairs and sort out a leak problem (there's always something to be working on) and have been having BBQÂ´s with the local Ozzie expats and student doctors, a bit of city living in the jungle. Frans and Nils have been diving on the wreck of an American warship 'The Coolidge' which is over 650 feet long, and the rest of us are doing a dive course to get our open water certificate. And then weÂ´re heading upwards towards the Solomons and hopefully will be joined by Sheralee, a catamaran with 3 cool young people aboard. Hoorah! Young people are quite rare on yachts so we like to stick together and take the party with us. We'll keep you informed....
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